Ireland’s information society development has been described as mixed in the latest European Union i2010 annual report for 2007, with first class use of technology among business but extremely poor broadband adoption and ICT usage by citizens.
The annual report cited the fact that Ireland is below average in terms of broadband take-up, ranking 20th out of the EU countries with only 10.5pc of the population accessing broadband compared with an EU average of 15.7pc.
In 20th place Ireland trailed far behind its nearest neighbour the UK, which stood at number four with 20.4pc of its population accessing broadband and Denmark at number one with a broadband penetration rate of 29.4pc of its population.
Looking for something positive to say, the report found that despite Ireland’s disastrous performance on connectivity the country’s citizens are active consumers of online music.
E-government availability was one of the country’s more solid metrics with 30pc of government services available online, not far shy of the EU average of 36.8pc. However, this performance pales significantly beside the UK where 80pc of government services are available online.
However, one of the more shining examples of where Ireland is heading is the percentage of e-commerce as a percentage of businesses’ turnover which stood at 16.7pc, ahead of the European average of 11.7pc. Some 23.4pc of Irish businesses receive internet orders, again north of the EU average of 13.9pc.
A whopping 56.1pc of Irish enterprises purchase goods over the internet, above the EU average of 37.9pc.
Ireland topped the EU rankings at number one in terms of the percentage of enterprises using secure servers. Some 59.3pc of organisations use secure servers, ahead of the EU average of 41pc.
Another area of satisfaction can be found in user skill levels, where 36.6pc of employees in organisations are connected to the internet, above the EU average of 36.1pc.
But where Ireland falls down in the skills category is the percentage of people employed with specialist ICT skills. This stood at 2.5pc of Irish organisations, south of the EU average of 3.1pc. Ireland ranked 21st place in this category.
The sophistication of the ICT sector and the adoption of ICT by Irish businesses is clearly at odds with the use of technology by the Irish citizenry.
This belies the overall importance of ICT to the Irish economy, which stood at 12.4pc of gross domestic product (GDP), ahead of the EU average of 5.5pc. The ICT sector in Ireland accounts for 6.2pc of all jobs in the country, according to the EU report.
EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media Viviane Reding said that the ICT sector continues to grow faster than Europe’s overall economy, contributing nearly 50pc of EU productivity growth between 2000 and 2004.
Software and IT services are currently the most dynamic growth area in Europe, with a rate of 5.9pc growth between 2006 and 2007.
“Our integrated European policy for growth and jobs is now starting to pay dividends,” said Reding. “However, let’s not be complacent.
“ICT companies in Europe are still not able to profit from economies of scale in view of regulatory fragmentation that blocks the emergence of pan-European services and hurts the chances of e-communication operators and software companies to compete on the world market.
“The EU and its member states need in particular to make a greater effort to remove the remaining impediments within internal markets for online services,” Reding warned.
By John Kennedy